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Alex Cross MAG
“Battleship” dumbfounded audiences with its stupidity, “Project X” with its hateful misogyny, and “The Lucky One” with its pervasive sentimentality. Based on the best-selling novels by James Patterson, “Alex Cross” commits the sin of treating its adult audience like a group of toddlers who just awoke from naptime.
Here the roles are reversed: we're the wide-eyed and observant spectators watching this hazy, confused, and disastrous display of action filmmaking awaken, then implode, and ultimately explode in a fiery pit of hackneyed cinema.
Set in Detroit, Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) is a prophetic homicide detective pushed to his limits when a masochist sociopath takes Motor City by storm. The ex-military murderer named Picasso (Matthew Fox) proclaims “inflicting pain” is a part of his “calling.” Amid painting, poisoning, and torturing, the psychopath – with no clear rhyme or reason – targets a financier who wants to rebuild Detroit.
Called to investigate and hunt down the criminal, Cross and partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) run into trouble when Picasso proves to be their greatest threat. Both detectives, through a series of graphic death sequences, broach their own moral and physical limits.
“Alex Cross” is grim and gritty, relentless in its dark portrayal of one man infected by insanity, the other on the brink of it. For the first half hour, director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,” “The Skulls”) provides some wonderfully entertaining moments, almost convincing us that these characters are worth our time.
The film's momentary satisfaction is quickly squandered when the plot's objective becomes clear: another vehicle for Tyler Perry to wow his audience (who apparently are ardent enough fans for the star to keep making movies and TV shows).
Perry, similar to Tom Cruise or Will Smith (although they're much more talented), can never quite inhabit a role. You don't see Alex Cross, the commanding law-enforcer, on screen, but Tyler Perry, the actively straining and ungifted actor.
Terrible things happen to our protagonist and his family – not that any of it carries much emotional weight. Screenwriters Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson clearly placed their emphasis on unintelligible shoot-'em-up action sequences over character or thematic development. There are some nifty gadgets and garish firepower in “Alex Cross,” but little substance. If the combat sequences were created to dismay and perplex the audience with hyper-editing tactics and hand-held camera work, they succeeded.
There's some minute subtext in the dichotomy between seeking justice and seeking revenge. Are the two interchangeable? The “eye for an eye” approach seems to be at play in “Alex Cross”; our protagonist decides to personally hunt down this maniacal killer who has brutally taken away someone he loves.
Much like the ferocious act of redemption, “Alex Cross” is ultimately both unsettling and unsatisfying. Cohen and Perry desperately want us to respect the story, but it never takes the time to respect its audience.
I'm sure that's a punishable crime in utopia. I can already envision Perry and company's prison sentence: life in Hollywood without ever making a motion picture again. It'd be a joyous public service for all.